Yuletide Carols

Several of my classes are officially done for the term, just a few more sessions next week and then I’m off home! This weekend, I have one relatively brief paper, and then another that isn’t due until the end of January (so definitely not writing that one until January). It’s remarkable, I feel like this term has rushed to the finish. Things often seem to work that way–swift at the exciting beginning, interminable in the middle, and lightning fast at the end. Anyway, here we are.

This week has been pretty good, I haven’t really been suffering undue stress because of finals or assignments (I do sincerely sympathize with those who have). Last Friday, I went with some friends to a ‘Christmas Bazaar’ which ended up being a bit of a disappointment, but we made up for it by having some great Chinese food at a restaurant recommended by a Chinese student in our program. It wasn’t sufficiently spicy for her taste, but I think the rest of us thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. There were six of us, and we got our own private room (not sure how that happened, the conversation was conducted in Chinese) and had a wonderful time chatting, eating, making animal sounds, and discussing our personal physical abnormalities (because that’s what friends are for).

On Sunday, we had a meal together after the service and decorated a tree with ornaments and what have you, and that was delightful. On Wednesday, we had a little rehearsal with Choral Society in preparation for singing Christmas carols at a couple events coming up. Who doesn’t love Christmas carols? It was a lot of fun. FYI, this is one of the few areas in which I’m comfortable with favorites: favorite carol is O Holy Night and favorite song is The Christmas Song, though Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is a close second. I knew almost all of them, though there were a few that were unfamiliar or I knew the words and not the tune. Interestingly, some of the ones I knew had slightly changed lyrics–similar but just a line or two of variance. It was sort of a disorienting experience in large part because it was so unexpected. For example, in Deck the Halls, where I’m used to singing “Don we now our gay apparel” the Irish sing “Fill the mead cup, drain the barrel” (surprise, the Irish version references drinking–and that’s not the only time!). My favorite, though, was the version of Silent Night that we sang, no questions asked, in English then Irish then German. That just made me smile inside and out.

It made me think of the traditions associated with Christmas–not the actual things we do, I guess, but the things we feel. For me, at least, the feeling of Christmas is coziness, joy, comfort, togetherness, excitement, thanksgiving. I’m not really maligning the commercialization of Christmas (mostly because I think doing so is almost as commercialized as the commercialization of Christmas itself, if that makes any sense) but getting at the feel-goods of the season. We decorate with evergreens and cover things in lights. And people (at least, the people of my ancestors–northern Europeans–and probs other peoples too) have been doing this long before Christianity. This time, the darkest, coldest, harshest time of the year has been transformed into the brightest, warmest, sweetest time. It makes me feel cool about being a human being, that we have persevered through conditions that were really very awful by celebrating the goodness that we know will come–and in fact, we make it come in spite of the awfulness! Think of those living in modern-day Norway 2,000 years ago. All they had to keep them going was the thought of spring, the knoweldge that days will grow longer and warmer and kinder. Think of the mostly pagan, quasi-Christian traditions that we still keep–evergreen boughs, Yule logs (at least in cake form), feasting, singing…we’re still just a cold and hungry people seeking light in darkness.

I don’t know, but there are some thoughts on the season. Things in the world have seemed so especially dark of late, so remember what people thousands of years ago knew–in times of great darkness, we ourselves provide the light.

And so I leave you in the words of the season, echoing across a great many years:

Wolcum Yule!

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